KNOXVILLE - Emmanuel Moseley looked dead to rights.
Marquez North, Tennessee's Freshman All-SEC receiver, had a step on the Volunteers' first-semester cornerback as he ran a fade pattern into the back corner of the end zone during Thursday afternoon's practice.
It was a certain touchdown.
The wiry 5-foot-11 Moseley had other ideas.
Even though North got two hands on the football, Moseley stuck his right hand in there and jarred the ball loose to prevent a loss in his one-on-one matchup. As the January enrollee got up off the ground, he emphatically gave an incomplete-pass signal, and his fellow defensive backs greeted him with congratulatory shouts and pats on the helmet.
"Nice job, Moseley!" barked receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
Deep into his first spring practice, Moseley continues to get first-team work opposite Cam Sutton, himself a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2013, and has performed well enough that he was the first player mentioned when head coach Butch Jones was asked to name some top defensive playmakers following Thursday's session.
"Emmanuel Moseley is the one individual at corner that continually impresses," the Vols' second-year coach said. "He's extremely competitive, fights for the ball in the air, is like a sponge and takes everything that [secondary] Coach [Willie] Martinez tells him and tries to apply it to his game.
"We just need to get him bigger and stronger to compete at a high level into August and then into September and into football season. I really like what he's bringing to the table."
So far, nine practices into Moseley's college career, that appears to be speed and the mindset required to play corner.
He starred as a quarterback at Dudley High School in Greensboro, N.C., leading the Panthers to the Class 4-A state championship. As a senior, Moseley ran for more than 1,400 yards, threw for more than 1,300 and accounted for 47 touchdowns. He made 28 tackles and intercepted four passes.
When he committed to Tennessee last fall, Moseley was an under-the-radar two-star prospect, but he proved himself at a couple of all-star games following his strong senior season and has continued on that projection with the Vols.
"They told me if they didn't want me to play, they wouldn't have gotten me to enroll early," Moseley told the Times Free Press in January. "Most people that enroll early, they want them to play and they have a good chance of playing. They just want to put some weight on me and see how I do, because they know about my talents and my speed and all that."
Moseley is listed at 165 pounds, and that's probably a little generous, though to his credit he's added nearly 20 pounds since arriving at Tennessee three months ago. His straightline speed jumps out at observers during practice. His No. 12 jersey still looks a size too big for him at times, too.
"He's really smart," defensive coordinator John Jancek said last week. "He pays attention to detail. He's really coachable. He's got a great demeanor about him. I love his speed, athleticism and change of direction. Obviously he's really young and makes a lot of mistakes still, but I think he's got a bright future."
Based on this spring, that future isn't too far off.
"He's definitely a track guy," Sutton said following Tuesday's practice. "He's got to use that speed. His speed is going to help him out a lot.
"Great, hard worker. He's always in there trying to get into film. He's always coming to me or the other DBs asking questions, and he wants to work. We need those kind of guys on the field."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org